Authenticity of ancient works
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05-09-2013, 09:41 AM
Authenticity of ancient works
I do not believe the gospels were written by their attributed authors. I have numerous reasons for my skepticism. The fact that they were written in Greek and not in the native languages of the attributed authors is a big one. Geographical errors in Mark, plagiarism of (the non-eyewitness) Mark by (the eyewitness) Matthew, historical errors in Luke and inconsistencies between Matthew and John on substantial matters (such as the length of Jesus' ministry and the identity of the person who actually carried the wooden cross).

In debating the subject with a customer-reviewer on Amazon, I've been challenged with a red herring. The fact that it's a red herring has been noted, but I find the challenge interesting on its merits.

The challenge was this: Why am I willing to accept as a "given" that Plutarch's Lives was, in fact, written by Plutarch, or that the histories attributed to Herodotus were, in fact, written by Herodotus, but I am not willing to grant the same benefit of the doubt to the gospels?

The simple answer is that I know more about the gospels than I do about Plutarch's Lives or Herodotus. I do not take the authorship of Plutarch's Lives or Herodotus as a "given"; I simply don't know of any challenges to their authenticity and haven't studied the matter. This has nothing to do with the authenticity of the gospels' traditional authorship. It's simply a gap in my personal knowledge.

I'd like to fill that gap in my personal knowledge. What evidence do we have that Plutarch's Lives really was written by an historical figure named Plutarch? What evidence do we have for Josephus? For Herodotus? For so many others?

[I did ask the reviewer for evidence of the authenticity of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Not surprisingly, he dodged the question repeatedly. The Plutarch's Lives red herring was one such dodge].

Anyway, anyone able to answer that question for me? The earliest "complete" manuscripts for Plutarch's Lives date many centuries after the biographies were written. What evidence do we have for their authenticity?
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05-09-2013, 10:33 AM
RE: Authenticity of ancient works
(05-09-2013 09:41 AM)TwoCultSurvivor Wrote:  The challenge was this: Why am I willing to accept as a "given" that Plutarch's Lives was, in fact, written by Plutarch, or that the histories attributed to Herodotus were, in fact, written by Herodotus, but I am not willing to grant the same benefit of the doubt to the gospels?

Those works do not make the extraordinary claim of being divinely inspired. Also, if they turn out to not to have actually been authored by their supposed authors, so what? Then they were written by someone else, big deal. Feel free to doubt their authorship all you want, it makes very little difference in regards to their body of work.

It's sort of like the existence of Socrates. Whether or not he existed doesn't change the power of the writing attributed to that author, and it can be appreciated as is without believing that Socrates actually existed or actually wrote the works attributed to him.

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05-09-2013, 11:11 AM
RE: Authenticity of ancient works
EK, I agree wholeheartedly, but I am looking to go beyond excusing my ignorance of the subject.

Part of my answer was, indeed, that my parents and church never expected or demanded that I base my life and morals on the works of Plutarch. Disinterest in one work does not equal bias against another.

But again, that's just an excuse for ignorance. I'm actually genuinely interested in the question of how we know various ancient works were really written by the authors to whom they have been attributed.
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05-09-2013, 12:59 PM (This post was last modified: 05-09-2013 01:14 PM by EvolutionKills.)
RE: Authenticity of ancient works
(05-09-2013 11:11 AM)TwoCultSurvivor Wrote:  But again, that's just an excuse for ignorance. I'm actually genuinely interested in the question of how we know various ancient works were really written by the authors to whom they have been attributed.

I honestly don't know how a scholar would go about this, so take it for what you will.

I imagine that a number of things are involved. Contemporary attestation is one possible validation, as is later quotations or commentaries. Even if we never had an actual copy of Flavius Josephus' 'Antiquities of the Jews', we would know of it's existence (and it's complete lack of mentioning Jesus) from the preserved commentaries of Origin and other early church fathers. Lacking anyone else claiming to have written a particular piece of work, I would think there isn't much of a call or reason to not accept traditional authorship. In the case of some works, we genuinely don't know; this applies to the works attributed to Homer and Socrates. Other works we don't even know who to attribute to, such as Beowulf or the Epic of Gilgamesh (and the Christian Gospels).

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05-09-2013, 01:50 PM
RE: Authenticity of ancient works
The thing is, a set of biographies is far far different from a "gospel". It's a different form of literature. The gospels are not "biographies". Almost every scholar agrees with that. They don't even claim to be "biographies". They are works of faith, by believers, for believers, about what they (already) believe. They do not claim to be "biographies". They were written for use in ancient liturgies, (not for "reading", as most people could not read then). They also claim to be "gospel". The "good news". A translation of the Greek word "euangelion" into old English ("godspel"). ONLY THE GOOD NEWS. They admit they are biased.

Also that culture had no sense of "accuracy" and "objectivity" as we do today. If it promoted their objective, they employed it. We call that "pious fraud", and they admitted they did it.
http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...rly-church

You can't read works of literature from ancient cultures (or even just different cultures) with your own modern cultural biases.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein
Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music - Friedrich Nietzsche
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